The Seine at Asnieres the Skiff Pierre-Auguste Renoir Buy Art Prints Now
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Tom Gurney BSc (Hons) is an art history expert with over 20 years experience
Published on June 19, 2020 / Updated on October 14, 2023
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Renoir painted a number of boating scenes and this example completed around 1879 demonstrates the fullest realization of an Impressionist work

Although in the later years of his career Renoir was moving towards a more classical style, he was still very much influenced by Monet and Monet's choice of subject matter.

Known variously as "Boating On The Seine"or "The Seine at Asnieres (The Skiff) the scene depicts two women rowing on a sun drenched lake in Chatou, an affluent area on the Isle De France.

As with many impressionist works, what strikes the viewer immediately is the sheer vibrancy of the colouration and the way that light infuses every aspect.

This is achieved using short brush strokes and building up layers of colour that occasionally allow previously applied paints to show through. Impressionist painters were also keen to juxtapose warm and cool colours. This is demonstrated in "The Seine At Asnieres" where Renoir working in shades from dark to light intersperses darker colours with patches and spots of pink and red and touches of yellow ochre.

During this period, he used what is called a "rainbow palette". This involved the use of seven pigments in addition to white and the style also adopts the application of simultaneous colour contrasts.

Renoir was interested in the work of Michel Eugene Chevreul a dye maker who had carried out an investigation into the way that adjacent colours influence one another. On the canvas these became termed as "broken colours", not blended but allowed to interact in such a way that they conveyed to the spectator the impression of different tones, adding to the impact of the scene.

In this painting, colours are applied in unmixed patches giving a sense of immediacy to the work. This style is particularly effective in the many reflections shown.

From that of the two ladies to those of the large house and tree and the building on the right. Renoir applies a patchwork of colours that mingle and shimmer on the water. These are not sharply defined but add drama and intensity to his creation.

It is the skiff that first commands the attention with its sharp outline and range of red and amber hues. From here, the eye fixes on the bent figure of the oars woman and the sunshine accentuating the white of her dress. In spite of being close up to the artist, Renoir doesn't show fine details of the folds in her dress, her expression or her hair. What he is trying to do is to encapsulate a certain moment, knowing that it will quickly pass.

From here, you become aware of the subtle play of light and shade on the water. The brush strokes applied to suggest a breeze ruffling its surface.

Moving towards the top of the painting, further areas of white draw you in. From the sailing boat to the walls and pillars and finally to the sun catching the side of the large building.

The painting is a perfect example of the effective use of colour and form. Everything is integrated and harmonious with nothing out of place.